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First Church is making a difference in the lives of people throughout Los Angeles.

 

A few of our members are telling their stories about how important First Church is in their lives and how they are involved in making a difference for someone else!

 

Our Count Me In campaign is a way for people in our community to make a personal yet public commitment to the future of First Church with the hope that it inspires others!

2014

January

 

January 12 - Raul Rojas

I was invited to come to First Church three years ago by my downstairs neighbor and it was clear to me that this was a special place. The warm welcome from everyone I encountered made me immediately feel that I was a part of a something special. Every Sunday that I attend First Church I am reminded as to why I keep coming back. The amazing sermons that are delivered on a week-to-week basis are some of the most inspiring and uplifting. The choir keeps outdoing itself under the leadership of Dr. Jonathan Talberg. Every staff member and volunteer including the ushers, Deacons, events staff and every person that helps to keep our Church going makes this place work. It is without hesitation that I say “Count Me In!” because for all that we receive from our experiences here it is important that we give back some of the blessings so that this our community stays strong and continues to grow!

 

March

 

March 4 - James Tipper

     I never thought in a million years that I would go to church once I’d painstakingly achieved the free will of adulthood. Memories of stiff shoes, stiff hair and even stiffer sermons during those long-ago Sunday mornings at my Catholic church haunted me with amazing tenacity.

     Though for years I could not manage to wiggle out of Christmas and Easter with the family, and though I braved my mother’s disillusionment and her weapons-grade guilt for breaking tradition, I considered myself a lucky guy for finally getting out of going to church. I was now a big boy, living hundreds of miles away, and free of the pews once and for all. Hallelujah.

      For a good twenty years I managed to avoid the complications that come with “God stuff.” Then one day I stepped into FCCLA for the Bach Festival. Impressed with the building and the music, my partner suggested we return for a Sunday service. ‘Y’know...just to hear more of that awesome organ.’

      So we did. Then, we went again. And then we went some more. Of course, we sat in the back. It’s not like we were committing to the whole enchilada. Not us. No way.

      Then we went again, this time sitting a bit closer. ‘Y’know...just to see better,’ we said. And Dr. Scott preached: “It doesn’t matter if you doubt,” he said. “You can be at whatever point you are in your spiritual journey and it’s okay,” he said. Then came more convictions, the kind I swore up and down I would never hear in any church: “God loves you just the way you are. Everyone is welcomed: gay, straight, black, white, young, old, dubious and devout.”

      And the Steitz family was no less enlightened: Rev. Ryan gentle and sincere and Rev. Shanna nonchalantly referring to God as “she”.

      Wait. What? You can do that? You mean God can be all things to all people? Okay...count me in. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t buy all aspects of Christianity. Maybe I will someday, but not quite yet. Who knew that was okay? At First Church... it is.

      However, I do believe in some things. I believe in First Church. I believe that we are opening our arms as wide as we can and that love and acceptance are far more enriching to ourselves and our community than hate and discrimination. And isn’t that about as close to God as you can get?

      So, yes. Count me in; I am now nominated to be a delegate on the Church Council. My partner, Peter, is your treasurer. We both chaired the committee to pick our new organist, Dr. Christoph Bull. And we are excited to have Dr. Colglazier officiate our wedding in the Sanctuary this summer.

      All of this from a guy who never wanted to set foot in a church again. What better proof that love and acceptance can move mountains and make the impossible happen.

2013

October

 

October 27 - Gordon Harris

For many people, it only takes one visit to First Congregational Church of Los Angeles to appreciate what spiritual wealth it has to offer. A more nuanced appreciation – one that took me longer to fully grasp – is that the church also has very real and immediate needs.

 

An engaged congregation is critical to the future and relevance of our church. Recently, I started ushering on Sundays as a way to better connect with FCCLA’s members and worship service, and the experience has been a rewarding one. Ushering made me realize, once again, that I only get out of something what I put into it! I encourage you to think about what ways you can further engage yourself – how might your time, energy, and talents be of use?

 

Another important need of our church is the ongoing financial support of the congregation. Our financial offerings allow FCCLA to continue serving our people and the community to its best ability. If you have a busy schedule (or are sometimes forgetful, like me) committing to a financial pledge and using the e-offering option is an easy way to stay current in your giving.

 

I’m saying “Count Me In!” because I feel that I am part of something special here. I look forward to working with you in ensuring that many others have the opportunity to feel the same way, and for decades to come!

 

November

 

November 3 - Bridgette Trovato

I attended First Church happened to be the 3rd Annual Interfaith Dialogue. Although it was not a typical Sunday worship, the strong message of compassion and embracing diversity was so engaging, I knew this was the church I would call home. Not only does the amazing choir blow my hair back, but most importantly, FCCLA nurtures my spirituality and brings a strong sense of God’s peace and wisdom to my life. I get to be counted into a community of people who inspire and care for one another, and I am grateful for that precious bond among us.

 

The first Sunday My life has been enriched since I became a member; I cannot help but feel compelled to find ways I can say “Count Me In!” to support my beloved church in return. From hosting a coffee fellowship, to offering my design services in updating Shatto Chapel, or contributing a monetary pledge by signing up for an e-offering; there is always something I can offer, big or small.

November 10 - Mary Holland

Every year during the Christmas season, my mom and I would frantically search for a church service that would fulfill that desire for the music and feeling of the holiday. It was the only time we went to a church all year. While some of the churches we found were pretty good, others didn’t quite do the trick, and we would come away feeling a little empty.

 

Two years ago on Christmas morning, we came into First Church — for the organ. I had heard about the organ, so as church shoppers, off we went. I remember that service so clearly. We were sitting enjoying the most phenomenal music, in the most incredibly beautiful sanctuary, and a feeling so powerful came over me, it brought tears to my eyes.

 

Then Dr.Colglazer stood up and gave his sermon. I couldn’t believe how wonderful his words were, how much I could connect, and how at home I felt. I hadn’t been a member of a church for 40 YEARS and I wasn’t really even looking to become one! Yet, I just knew that this is where I belong. This community could fill the God-sized hole I had been feeling for many years and didn’t even know it. I unexpectedly found myself saying, “Yes! Count me in!”

 

And I’m still saying that by worshipping most every Sunday. I hate to miss because it is the highlight of our week. I’m still saying count me in by participating with a modest E-offering each month, sponsoring coffee fellowship, and wherever else I can be counted with the wonderful programs our church is involved in.

 

This is such a warm and welcoming community of diverse individuals. I am so glad I found a place to belong.

November 17 - Julie Janata

I grew up in a Congregational church and am steeped in the Congregational way — that each member has a voice and a vote, each of us is equally important to the whole. My childhood church, First Congregational Church of Columbus, Ohio, like First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, was and is an activist church, on the forefront of civil rights, women’s rights and LGBT rights. More than just tolerant, the Congregational church is active in righting the wrongs we see in the world. Growing up, I knew folks who fought for justice, who were jailed with Martin Luther King, Jr. My mother was the first woman to preach a sermon in our church... on Independence Day. Unlike so many of my friends, I never found the need to rebel against the church, since it epitomizes everything I hold dear. We Congregationalists fight for tolerance, inclusion and love.

 

But our church, like so many of us in our own lives, has gone through some hard days. Despite decades as a member who wasn’t often around, I’ve returned to find my true faith in our church today. Scott, Shanna and Ryan minister in the truest sense of the word. Through good times and bad, they nurture us and raise us up. They reach out to foster a church family who care for each other.

 

First Church is an inspiration, through the creativity of the sermons, the stunning music, the striking architecture, insightful discussion groups, book clubs and film clubs, art and activities. Most of all, I’m inspired by the fellowship and fun we find together. We make a joyful “noise” for sure!

First Church lifts me up in a celebration of life and love. Each Sunday I am renewed. I’ve found my church home — a place where I can be counted in.

November 24 - Michael & Monica Dennis

When we came to First Church as guests, we found a community rooted in

rich tradition, just beginning to grow toward the future. For many months we were reluctant to become members. Would the building look any more grand, or the music sound more mystical? Eventually we saw membership for what it is: an invitation to be counted. Saying “Count us in” meant we could become part of something growing, the green leaf on the other end of the plant with the gorgeous roots.

Soon we were asked to accept nominations as deacons. Thoughts of “Who, me?” gave way to “Count us in again.” That meant leadership and a way to serve, as well as front- row seats to every organ prelude and choral “Amen.” Will you make a pledge? This time “Count us in” gave us a stake in the future of our church, and pride at supporting a creative, thinking congregation.

 

Then there were the questions we asked ourselves. How can we express thanks for a new job? Saying “Count us in” with a special gift to the church meant the opportunity to underwrite a jazz band for the most profoundly smooth Sunday all summer, and later the chance to reach out to an admired artist to commission a Communion chalice that will grace our church’s altar for decades.

 

For our family, saying “Count us in” is a sacred occasion to take stock of, and invest in, our own blessings. Each week we come to First Church. We put on robes, hug friends, listen for God’s inspiration... and look for the

next way to be counted in.

 

December

 

December 1 - Evan & Alyson Nicholas

The first Sunday we came to FCCLA I can remember squeezing my then girlfriend’s hand as a warm, familiar feeling moved through me. I think it must have been a flicker of joy over finally finding a church where we both felt at home. So at home, in fact, that when we became engaged six months later, we resolved that we would be married here.

 

For us, this church is a bastion of peace and fellowship; an invigorating time to reflect. We are so thankful to be welcome in this place, and so thankful for the many new relationships we¹ve formed during our time here. We love that this church believes in the power of fellowship, and are constantly refreshed by the emphasis on compassion and tolerance throughout the Church’s ministry.

 

It has been almost a year since our wedding, and I’m happy to report I still get that warm, familiar feeling on Sundays. In fact every time I step into the Sanctuary and hear the organs play I feel a little more at home. We are so proud to be part of the FCCLA community, and hope to inspire that same warm, familiar feeling in others as the community grows. We give because we love this place, and want it to be around forever.

December 8 - Bettina A. Babbitt

There are many reasons people come to First Church, and why they decide to say “Count Me In!” For me, it happened on a summer morning in 1983 when my father decided to take a tour of the great churches of Los Angeles. Because of his upbringing at Pilgrim Congregational Church in Seattle, he selected First Congregational Church of Los Angeles as our first tour location. I thought that I would visit once, spend an hour at the service, and then be done. However, we arrived early for the service and were greeted in the Forecourt by Dr. Walt Vernon and Don Colhour, who were so charming, supportive, and convincing that we knew that we had to come back, which we did many times. I now have a thirty-year history with First Church!

 

By the winter of 1983 I became engaged and decided that the only possible place to have my wedding would be First Church. Our friends here helped us plan our wedding, right down to the musical selections; so many people helped us to create a joyous event for us, full of memories that I will always cherish. But the church was here for us in darker times as well, such as when my father, who had also continued to worship at First Church, passed away in 1986. Dr. Vernon conducted a lovely service, and I learned so much about my father that day.

 

In 2001, my husband Clarence and I moved to Gilbert, Arizona, where we found a new church home; but I continued to stay connected to First Church by reading The Meetinghouse. In 2012, my husband passed away, and we had a memorial service for him in Shatto Chapel. Afterward, I went into the Sanctuary, looked at the stained glass windows, remembered all the times we had prayed together in that magnificent space, and sobbed.

 

This church holds so many dear memories for me, which is why I continue to be counted by making a special financial gift each Christmas. I thought that I was making a one-hour commitment to attend First Church when I arrived in 1983. I did not know that this journey would be one of friendship, support, wisdom, and spiritual experiences.

FIRST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH of LOS ANGELES

Wilshire Center  |  540 South Commonwealth Avenue  |  Los Angeles  CA. 90020  |  T. 213.385.1341